GREAT MODERN WRITERS: Virginia Woolfe, ‘Mrs Dalloway’

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Genre: Classic Fiction

I’m starting off my book challenge with an old favourite! I read ‘Mrs Dalloway’ in high school and though it had an impact on me with it’s definition of ‘the perfect hostess’ rereading the book has given me greater insight and appreciation for this classic.

To summarise, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ takes place in the space of a single day back in 1923 as Clarissa Dalloway, an upperclass English wife, prepares for a party she is hosting that evening. As the day progresses, we learn more about Clarissa’s past with the visit of an old lover Peter Walsh and we learn about her present as we’re introduced to her husband, the conservative and respectable Richard Dalloway and her adolescent daughter Elizabeth.

This is one of my favourite novellas because of its transformative power. When reading it I can see the clothes, imagine the London streets and envisage myself preparing to host a glamorous dinner party. However, with this comes a dark undercurrent of reality, realised when you read the perspectives of each of the characters.

Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s first complete example of what she describes as the “luminous envelope” of consciousness: displaying inside the mind as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.

A fascinating and subtly powerful read.

Have you read Mrs Dalloway?

Love,
Vanessa x

PODCAST UPDATE! The Diviners- Eternity, Love and Beauty

Have a listen to Vanessa’s full review of ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ by Brian Cox and Robin Ince, ‘The Passage of Love’ by Alex Miller and ‘Grace Kelly Hollywood Dream Girl’ by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman on ABC Radio’s ‘Overnights’ featuring presenter Rod Quinn.

‘Beautiful Malice’ by Rebecca James

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Genre: Fiction

This read is a long time coming! I remember reading a great review of this book in the MUST READ section of a Women’s Weekly magazine back in 2010. Then, a few weeks ago I found a mysterious copy in my mother’s library and believed the universe was giving me a nudge to read it.

This book is about Katherine, a 17 year old girl who has recently moved away from her shattered family to start afresh in Sydney. Katherine keeps her head down and a low profile until she is befriended by the wild and party-loving Alice. Alice brings Katherine out of her shell and into the real world…but there’s a dark side to Alice, something threatening and soon Katherine will learn the truth about Alice a dark twisted side which brings explosive and devastating consequences.

This is an intense and addictive psychological thriller. It is an easy read, however, at times is frustratingly unrealistic in it’s depiction of living in Sydney and Katherine needs to be more unlikeable in order to have more substance.

The depiction of friendship is something that is truly worth value.

I don’t know why I remember a book review from 8 years ago but it was worth remembering!

What’s a good psychological thriller you’ve read?

Love,
Vanessa x

‘The Secret Life of Whales’ by Micheline Jenner

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Genre: Non-Fiction

This was my holiday read for my recent trip to New Zealand. Didn’t see any whales- still on the bucket list but did see plenty of other gorgeous birds and spectacular scenery.

Marine biologist Micheline Jenner has studied whales her entire career. It has become her life in more ways then one, not only in her career but also in her lifestyle. Micheline travels and studies whales with her husband Curt and has raised her family on the seas. Since the 1990 Micheline has discovered humpback breeding grounds off the Kimberley coast, uncovered pygmy blue whale feeds spots and is one of the few people in the world to witness and document the birth of a humpback whale.

‘The Secret Life of Whales’ gives some fascinating insights into these giants, gentle creatures. This book is starts to reveal the mysteries for some of the biggest animals to ever exist on the planet.

Whaling ceased in 1963, with the humpback whale population estimated to be a devastatingly low 500 worldwide. In 2009 aerial surveys estimated the Western Australian humpback whale population had grown between 33 000 and 36 000. However, whales face a new challenge in the 21st century, ocean pollution and global warming. Through the work that Micheline and Curt do at the Centre for Whale Research in understanding the migration patterns of whales that can further understand how human impact affects these creatures and see how a marriage between industry and maintaining a natural ecosystem for these animals to possible.

A great read for anyone interested in whales!

‘Grace Kelly Hollywood Dream Girl’ by Jay Jorgensen & Manoah Bowman

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Genre: Coffee Table Book

Grace Kelly has just 6 years in the Hollywood spotlight and in that time epitomized onscreen elegance during her brief but unforgettable career. This book is a collection of seldom seen childhood photos, previously unpublished Edith Head wardrobe sketches, original portraits, scene stills, on-set candids and wardrobe test shots.

The introduction of this book gives an interesting backstory to her life and early career. She was the middle child in a high achieving, wealth Irish family living in Philadelphia. Her breakout role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon. However her movie role in ‘Mogambo’ with Clark Gable is what Hitchcock noticed about Kelly when he needed a cheap and pretty leading lady for ‘Dial M for Murder’- this subsequently changed both their careers.

It tells of her early struggles in New York living in a women only hotel and doing stage plays in an attempt to build up her acting experience.

Her main problems in the early years for casting directors was her height and her voice couldn’t project.

A vast array of photos, newspaper and magazine articles, costume sketches, wardrobe tests, onset shots and personal photos.

This is a gorgeous photography book and a wonderful gift for fashion fans, movies fans or Kelly fans!

Love,
Vanessa x

‘The Infinite Monkey Cage- How to Build a Universe’ by Brian Cox and Robin Ince

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Genre: Scientific Non-fiction

Based on the BBC Radio 4 Program ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’

‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ is a science radio show that’s been going since 2009, that each week covers very complex scientific topics in layman’s everyday language and it’s a panel show, so it has specialists depending on the topic. For example I listened to the ‘fiercest creatures’ podcast and they had Steve Backshall, the presenter of the show ‘Deadly 60’. This book essentially is just an extension of the program.

These books are really popular as gifts over Christmas because they’re kind of fun. They’re bite size of information that you can pick up and put down.

This book covers a multitude of concepts and queries of the universe by two leading scientists and peppered with comic relief throughout- from the Big Bang and parallel universes to artificial intelligence but it tells these big existential concepts in often funny and occasionally silly ways.

Professor Brian Cox is a Professor of Particle Physics at the University of Manchester, he’s also a presenter of the popular BBC Wonder trilogy: Human Universe, Forces of Nature and Stargazing Live. He was also is the keyboard player in a band called D:Ream in the 1990s. Brian Cox has been described as the natural successor for BBC programming by David Attenborough and Patrick Moore (astronomer). He’s written over 950 scientific publications.

Robin Ince is a award winning stand up comedian who presents The Book Shambles Podcast and other shows about science.

The book takes some of the best questions from the 8 years of the ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’ and answers it in a readable and comical way. It’s an interesting book but can be very dense so would suit hard-core science enthusiasts.

A good Christmas stocking filler!

Love,
Vanessa x

 

 

‘A Passage of Love’ by Alex Miller

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Genre: Autobiographical Fiction 

This is my current read and my first Alex Miller. During my time at the bookstore I never got around to reading any of Miller’s books because I felt that if everyone else was reading him….I should read something else.

For those who are unfamiliar with this author Alex Miller is a well-known Australian author who has won the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award twice as well as many other writing awards for his works. Some of his works include ‘The Ancestor Game’ and ‘Journey to the Stone Country’.

His latest work ‘A Passage of Love’ is based on his own life, specifically his first marriage in his twenties when he worked as a stockman in Victoria and was desperately working to become a writing.

The story  that starts in the 1950s when Robert Croft arrives in Melbourne with the ambition to become a writer. While working a stockman in far North Queensland Robert meets the beautiful, well-educated and rich Lena. To Lena, this man is handsome and comes from an exotic world far beyond anything she’s ever experienced. Soon the strains of a deeply troubled relationship begin to surface- Robert’s obsession with becoming a writer and Lena’s desperation to leave the confides of strict middle-class upbringing. It describes itself as a story of ‘the dread and bliss of youthful love’

It’s a period of incredible loneliness and sadness despite this intense love because Lena studies in Melbourne and Robert works on a farm. Lena’s struggle was much harder because she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life but that first year had a sense of liberty and freedom that can rarely ever been experienced i.e. the life the of a writer.

Immediately I can feel the refined eloquence of the writing but it could do with a bit more editing. This very common with award winning authors- as the years progress the books get thicker as the expectations start to arise so cutting and slimming down doesn’t seem to be a priority- that’s what I noticed through my years at the bookstore.

Miller describes himself as being very vulnerable with writing this book but by being honest and by describing what they’re doing and what sort of people they are. He’s been working on this novel for 20 years.

The book’s described as autobiographical fiction, a phrase first coined by Virginia Woolfe with ‘To the Lighthouse’.

It’s a story that explores the concepts of masculinity, marriage and trust and though I’m not yet halfway through I’m fascinated to see where the story takes me- albeit as someone in their early twenties it makes me question getting married anytime soon…

If you’ve read this or something similar I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Love, 
Vanessa x

 

 

 

 

‘Museum of Modern Love’ by Heather Rose

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Genre: Fiction

I’m currently halfway through this sensational novel and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite books of 2017! This after months and months of out right saying ‘Nope!’ to the possibility of reading it because I thought it would just be another cheesy romance…well popular won this round-

LITERARY WORLD: 1

NESS: 0
.

‘The Museum of Modern Love’ won the 2017 Stella Prize for Fiction. This is a major literary award in Australia and is awarded to female writer’s whose work champions culture change. This is my first read of a winning piece.

But let’s get to the good stuff. Why is this book awesome.

Well

  1. It’s set in New York- yay! But not cheesy sitcom comedy NY (Sex in the City and HIIYM I’m looking at you) but the real reason New York is an icon, because it hub of personalities and styles all drawn together by the seduction of creativity
  2. The story revolves around the artist Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present presented at the MOMA. Abramovic is a real artist, whose works of art have caused serious stir within the art community since the 70s. One of most well known works was Rhythm 0, 1974 where Abramovic placed 72 objects on a table that people were allowed to use on the artist in any way they chose- some objects were pleasurable and others inflicted pain. Throughout the performance Abramovic had to remain passive as the audience did what they pleased to her body. The artist was testing what people deem acceptable to do to one another. By the end of 6 hours Abramovic had been stripped, carried around the room, cut and a loaded gun had been pointed to her head. This and her other performances have earned Abramovic the title of the “grandmother of performance art.”

 

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The story then looks into the lives of certain audience members who are drawn to Abramovic’s latest work, “The Artist at Present”. In this the artist sits at a chair and table with an empty chair opposite her each day, all day. Audience members are encouraged to sit opposite the artist while she remain passive and silent.

The threads of lives that become intertwined and drawn to this work is why I find this book so enjoyable. It’s unexpected. It’s not a classic love story. In fact, romance is a secondary feature of the book. Heather Rose seems to be exploring a deeper understanding of what love is- particularly when we consider it beyond love simply for one another.

Highly recommend!

Love,
Vanessa

 

 

Books on my Beside Table

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University break is upon us! It’s a time to catch up on study and clock up some much needed sleep. For me, it’s also brings the air of freedom to read what I want.

The air is warm and breezy here in Sydney at the moment….i.e. my absolute favourite time of year because it means Summer is coming which means Christmas is just around the corner!

So this morning I donned some summer slacks and made a pile of books I’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t got around to it. Books that have no obligations attached to them- just pure enjoyment.

What made the cut: 

New York by Edward Rutherford 

Diamond Sky by Annie Seaton 

I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith 

Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw 

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What’s on your To Be Read pile?

If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear what you thought?

If anyone needs me I’ll be curled up on the couch drinking too much coffee

Love,
Vanessa